WASHINGTON Oct.7 (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump, still being treated for COVID-19, abruptly ended talks with Democrats on an economic aid package on Tuesday, drawing criticism from presidential rival Joe Biden that he was abandoning Americans in the midst of a pandemic.
Trump’s tweet breaking off talks for a new round of stimulus spooked Wall Street, sending stocks down as much as 2% from their session highs and tarnishing one of the metrics that the Republican president has touted as a sign of his success.
Along with Democrat Biden, the former vice president whom he will face in the Nov. 3 U.S. election, congressional Democrats and some Republicans blasted Trump, saying more was needed to help the millions who have lost their jobs in a crisis in which the United States leads the world in deaths and infections.
“The president turned his back on you,” Biden said in a Twitter post.
Late Tuesday, Trump in a series of tweets urged Congress to quickly pass $25 billion in funding for passenger airlines, $135 billion for small businesses and provide $1,200 stimulus checks for Americans. “I am ready to sign right now,” Trump wrote.
Trump, 74, returned to the White House on Monday after three nights at a hospital to be treated for the novel coronavirus. His doctor said on Tuesday that Trump reported no COVID-19 symptoms and was doing “extremely well.”
But the disease continues to spread among Trump’s top aides, with White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller saying he tested positive on Tuesday.
The top U.S. military leaders are also isolating after the Coast Guard’s No. 2 tested positive for the disease, Pentagon officials said.
Officials said Trump was working from makeshift office space in the residence rather than the Oval Office, with few senior staff given face-to-face access exactly four weeks before the U.S. election in which he is seeking a second term.
In his first major policy pronouncement since leaving the hospital, Trump called off talks with Democratic lawmakers on coronavirus relief legislation until after the election, even as cases are on the rise across much of the country.
“I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
Despite Trump’s bravado, support for Biden has grown by about 4 percentage points since mid-September, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling from Friday to Tuesday, with 52% of likely voters backing Biden versus 40% for Trump.
Speaking at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, site of one of the U.S. Civil War’s bloodiest battles, Biden said the country was experiencing “total unrelenting partisan warfare” and, without naming Trump, faulted his handling of the disease.
“Wearing a mask isn’t a political statement. It’s a scientific recommendation,” he said, alluding to Trump’s reluctance to wear a mask even after falling ill. On his return to the White House, Trump removed his mask to pose for pictures.
Democratic House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi dismissed Trump’s comment, saying he would lose the election and Congress would pass stimulus during the “lame-duck” session when a president awaits replacement by his successor.